SCINI: Submersible Capable of under Ice Navigation and Imaging
Bob Zook, chief engineer, deploys the beta test ROV in Antarctica. This initial version, called ROSCam (Remotely Operated Submersible CAMera), had $5 flooded toy motors that worked for about 40 minutes before the brushes dissolved, and a $30 security camera with which you could see blobs moving about that may have been fishes, or maybe burglars.Marine science in the nearshore Antarctic is hampered � and facilitated � by ice. The frozen surface of the Southern Ocean that surrounds the continent of Antarctica provides a stable platform that we can walk and drive on, allowing us to do oceanography without getting seasick. However, we have to get through the ice to access the sea, and the bigger the hole you have to make the more difficult it is. A typical 100 cm hole requires considerable time and expertise to make; holes are thus costly, and restricted in number and location.
The seafloor community under the Antarctic ice is rich and diverse, including many familiar groups like sponges, corals, and seastars. What is less familiar is the ice hole in the background, which is the divers only access to the surface.To escape this limitation on Antarctic marine science, we are building a remotely operated vehicle (ROV) that fits through a 15 cm hole, which can be drilled by one person in under an hour, using equipment that can be transported by a snowmobile or helicopter. With this new ROV, named SCINI, we will be able to reach new locations under the ice that have previously been too remote or too deep to access. We will be able to easily drill lots of holes, enabling coverage of large areas of seafloor. The ROV will have navigational, visual and sonar imagery capabilities that will allow us to create maps of these areas, a first step toward better understanding of this polar region.
SCINI is a three year NSF grant starting in 2007 with development taking place in the benthic lab at the Moss Landing Marine Labs in Moss Landing, California. Annual field deployments during the Antarctica summer season (fall and winter in the USA) will be based out of McMurdo Station.